Exclusive to I-PRAC:

Part Two of the Trust Trilogy Series 

The business of short-term rentals is no longer a ground-breaking concept. No matter how reasonable your rates are, or how cutting-edge the coffee machine is in your recently-refurbed kitchen, know that you are not reinventing the wheel in any way; and there will always be competition, looking to out-perform you.

Competing on products, price, and “special offers” alone is a dangerous endeavour. This is especially true when you consider that the majority of the STR market’s current consumers consist of millennials and Gen-Z travellers. These generations are the most emotionally intuitive the world has ever seen, and they do not build loyalty with mere products and features.

In fact, according to a recent report from Alist Daily an enormous 76% of millennials agree that brands should be emotionally empowering. Meaning a brand would need to showcase this through their values, commitment to quality, and trust guarantees in order to attract this dominant demographic’s attention.

In I-PRAC’s much-anticipated “part two” of the Trust Trilogy Series, we’ll dive into the core difference between product marketing and trust marketing; and why the latter should not be dismissed (as it is so frequently is) for your short-term rental business. Because it’s trust marketing that will ultimately convert your leads into actual direct bookings.

If you haven’t already, we highly recommend that you read the first part of this series beforehand “Removing Guest Uncertainty.

Happy Gen Z and millennial travellers


Product Marketing: All These Hearts on Instagram & Not an Ounce of Brand Love

As per a recent report (2022) by Made By Shape, there are over 25,000 marketing agencies currently operating in the UK alone.

Add to this, the rising number of self-proclaimed marketing gurus who can charge you up to anything in the tens of thousands for their expertise, then deciphering what marketing resources to use against what not to use to build your direct booking’s business can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

There is certainly no shortage of colourful branding, creative reels and hyperactive TikToks in the short-term rental space. As digital trends and AI continues to dominate our everyday perception of the world (and the way many do business), more and more STR operators are trying to cut through the noise, with louder, shinier, and increasingly outrageous marketing strategies.

While there will always be room for innovative creativity, don’t forget that it should also serve a purpose. In your case, if you’re a short-term rental business owner, then that purpose will naturally be to generate more direct bookings – as this is the only means to create a scaleable and sustainable brand.

You can’t build an STR empire that isn’t reliant on OTAs (online travel agencies) on Likes and digital hearts alone.

But one look at the majority of emerging short-term rental companies across the world, including those who partner with expert marketing agencies, and you’ll find that an enormous part of their energy goes into building a social media presence with their marketing – which is great for brand exposure and engagement.

But, the problem? This type of marketing (alone) rarely converts into actual bookings.

We refer to this type of marketing – where stunning videos and images of properties are plastered across the internet to lure travellers in, as “product marketing’. This also applies to marketing that is centred around giveaways, seasonal discounts, and freebies; and although these strategies see immense success, when they’re used alone, they struggle to create brand loyalty, brand trust, and truly cement brand credibility.

This article from oneaffiniti.com which explains why product marketing alone is not enough in (any) business, highlights how your pool of buyer-ready prospects (or in your case, booking-ready prospects) – ie, prospects who are ready to book accommodation with you with “no-questions-asked” –  is generally very small.

As a result, if your marketing campaigns assume that your audience is wholly ready to book a stay with you and you only target these buyer personas, then you run the risk of alienating thousands of other future guests.

You could compare it to selling apples at a local fruit market. The expected “strategy” would be to shout “Apples for 50 pence!” at the top of your lungs to passers-by; but the below three things need to register in the customers’ minds before they part with their money.


1) Am I hungry? (ie, is there a need/ desire for this product)

2) Am I going to regret this? (ie, should I purchase this product from this supplier, or the competitor across the street?)

3) Am I sure? (ie, can I trust this product to be of a certain quality and trust there is minimal risk of me wasting my time and money?)


So, even where something as “low-risk” as buying a single apple is concerned, the product marketing (displaying shiny red apples at the stall and knocking the price down) needs to be coupled with something that is referred to as “trust marketing” – albeit on a smaller scale.

Even the most beautiful-looking short-term rental companies that have thousands of followers on Instagram because of their radiant social media tiles, are required to settle specific concerns before any kind of a direct booking takes place. Their products and services (as displayed to the masses) will more than likely drive enquiries and leads to their website; but this alone will not convert into sales.

As a short-term rental operator, you will need to answer the following, with conviction. Remember, there’s more at stake here, compared to the risks involved with buying an apple.


1) Is there a need or desire for me to stay at this property? 

2) Should I book with this short-term rental company, or via Airbnb? 

3) Can I trust this short-term rental company to be of a certain quality, and how do I ensure that I’m not wasting my time and money? 


A failure to address these questions from your guests will result in much fewer conversions, no matter how well you push your products and services.


Long-Term Wins with Trust Marketing

When “clickbait” first emerged, it intrigued many of us and we willingly followed links that offered exaggerated promises. However, the smartest have finally wised up to its misleading nature; and that’s because as human beings we’re biologically wired to seek feelings of safety, security, and trust. We’ve covered this concept in greater depth in part one of The Trust Trilogy Series.

It’s certainly worth considering that a lot of the digital product marketing we see in the current landscape is still a modern phenomenon. Social media only really took off in the early 2000s and became more “mainstream” in 2004. Before this time, short-term rental operators had to build relationships with guests the old-fashioned way – and data, findings, or even conversations with target demographics were not so easily accessible.


CEO and founder of I-PRAC, Chris Maughan also owns a luxury corporate short-term rental and events company in the South of France called AES Accommodation and Events. Maughan spent the early years of his business forging long-term relationships with clients, suppliers, and partners, back in a time when social media did not even exist. Remarkably, AES now has the likes Google, MTV, Spotify, Netflix, and more in its client portfolio; and has never used an OTA, to date. 

When Maughan recently asked one of his long-term clients, Disney why they continue to book short-term rental stays with AES (a question which many STR operators fail to ask their guests), the client simply explained that they trust AES to look after the Disney team and get “the job done”.

Ultimately, this level of trust means that one of the biggest brands in the world now books all their Cannes-based accommodation with AES, no-questions-asked. This is a phenomenal example of how easy marketing “hacks” and shortcuts might result in quick, short-term wins – but the long-term growth only comes when a STR brand has established trust with their guests.


Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Trust Marketing

Trust marketing is an umbrella term for a series of strategies and marketing techniques that you can use for the purpose of capturing (and mantaining) the trust and loyalty of your guests; and thus making yourself indispensable as an STR brand – which will protect you from competition, including that from the likes of Airbnb and Booking.com.

To help explain how you can use trust marketing strategies in your short-term rental business, we’re going to lean on the example of a growing STR brand called Luke Stays. This company offers short-term rental accommodation across the UK, other parts of Europe, and the UAE.

Around sixteen months ago, Luke Stays decided to accelerate their direct bookings’ strategy, as a result of spending thousands on commission fees for OTAs. But even after proactively asking regular guests to book directly with them, rather than via Airbnb (and sweetening the deal with better rates and early check-ins), the team found that guests were still continuing to book their accommodation via third party platforms.

Upon doing a lot of research and speaking to their guests, it soon came to fruition that while guests enjoyed the experience Luke Stays had to offer and were satisfied with the value-for-money, they still felt more comfortable booking with OTAs, as these channels seemed more familiar.

Ultimately, what this came down to was a lack of trust – and by now, the marketing team had built a strong social media presence as well as a solid email list; but it still wasn’t pushing those direct bookings rates up notably higher.

This is when the company decided to invest in I-PRAC accreditation, as a way to earn the trust of their guests’ and give themselves the advantage over competitors and OTAs. For Luke Stays, being an I-PRAC Approved member meant they could provide guests with:

* 100% protection and compensation against holiday rental fraud 

* Guaranteed payment protection 

* A verified “promise” that the Luke Stays experience meets the highest industry standards, as per I-PRAC’s meticulous checks and screening 

Of course, simply obtaining I-PRAC Accreditation wouldn’t be enough; and Luke Stays would now have to use a series of trust marketing strategies to communicate why guests should book confidently with them over OTAs and other STR companies (and how I-PRAC is naturally a core part of this). This would go hand-in-hand with their existing product marketing.


Luke Stays’ Winning Trust Marketing Strategy

There’s a lot to learn from Luke Stays’ current trust marketing strategy. Since becoming I-PRAC Approved and focusing on areas outside of just product marketing, the company has seen a 60% increase in direct bookings and is working towards eliminating their reliance on OTAs completely.

Here’s a round-up of how they’ve achieved this.

Optimising the Website with Trust Signals

The homepage on Luke Stays’ direct booking website immediately guarantees trust, unlike other OTA websites. We can see this across the copy used on the headline banner.

This is further reinforced on the homepage as Luke Stays clearly showcases that it’s I-PRAC Approved and goes onto explain what this means.

Note, phrases like “Here’s why you can trust us” and “Just 100% peace of mind” are particularly appealing to guests, who might be in two minds about booking directly with an STR brand. In fact, the CEO Ryan Luke has even gone one step further by including a video on that same page, which shows him personally talking about I-PRAC Accreditation and what this means for guests.

What’s particularly impressive about Luke Stays’ website is that they’ve taken the advice that I-PRAC preaches so often about, and have included a dedicated “Trust Page” – which clearly explains why Luke Stays can be trusted over OTAs. This page does a fantastic job of addressing every possible concern of potential guests, while also highlighting the benefits of booking directly.

This alone, has dramatically increased the company’s conversion rates.

Also on the Luke Stays’ website is a money-back guarantee, an FAQ section, and clear images of the company’s I-PRAC Approved logo, with their own unique verification number (so that it is impossible to replicate).

www.lukestays.com (Trust Page)


Obtaining I-PRAC accreditation has inspired Luke Stays to create their own version of Airbnb’s free “AirCover” feature. The STR brand has challenged the supposed benefits of AirCover for guests; and in their words have created something “better” for those who choose to book direct.

Like AirCover does for Airbnb bookings, StayCover is automatically included at no extra cost, with all bookings made through Luke Stays, but with the added advantage of 100% I-PRAC protection. This means, guests are guaranteed compensation against holiday rental fraud and full payment protection – something which the OTAs are unable to offer.

A Trust-Focused Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing tends to go hand-in-hand with trust marketing, as it involves creating and distributing value-led content that educates guests about your company (therefore building need, interest, and desire).

Luke Stays is highly proactive when it comes to organic blogging and content creation. This is evident across their main website (where they write about the benefits of being I-PRAC Approved often) and even across the CEO’s personal LinkedIn profile, on his newsletter The Property Powerhouse.

The company also continues to communicate the importance of booking with a trusted STR brand across their social media channels; and leads with this more than lavish photos of their properties’ interiors – although, we realise this is important, too.

You’ll find a particularly good example of one of Luke Stays’ blogs here – where they’re teaching guests about the benefits of booking directly with an I-PRAC Approved company and positioning themselves as industry leaders at the same time. This not only increases trust, it increases credibility, too.


Do You Have a Solid Trust Marketing Strategy?

In an industry that is largely dependant on the relationships you build with people, obtaining trust should be at the helm of your company’s marketing strategy.

Ultimately, no matter how well you position a product or service, or how much you discount a seasonal short-term rental stay, if your end consumer isn’t convinced that they can trust you, they will not even make it to the booking page on your website. There is a fundamental difference between driving enquiries and driving conversions – the latter brings in the money for your business; and the latter can only be consistently achieved when you implement trust marketing strategies.

To get you started, we’ve created a Trust Marketing Checklist so that you can work through the areas in your short-term rental company’s own marketing strategies, and introduce new ways of cementing trust between you and your target demographics. Remember, trust marketing is a long-game and while you will see results, you will need to be consistent and patient as demonstrated by Luke Stays – to truly reap the rewards later.

In the final part of I-PRAC’s Trust Trilogy Series we’ll explore “The Evolution of Guest Expectations”; and how as a short-term rental operator you may need to adapt and “catch up” quickly, to truly see more of those direct bookings coming in. Keep your eyes on I-PRAC’s Resource Hub for it.